The Sandwich High School softball team will be packing a punch this spring. The team lost only one senior to graduation and returns a veteran squad that won the Atlantic Coast League Championship last year and reached the quarterfinal round of the state tournament, ending the season with a record of 19-5.
“The majority of the girls played together since Little League softball when they reached the state finals,” Coach Jean Russell pointed out. “They are familiar with playing together and they want to go back to a championship game.”
The Lady Knights are loaded with talent and it begins with pitching. Senior left-hander Julia Sullivan did most of the pitching last season. She is throwing well in preseason workouts and brings a varied repertoire of pitches.
“Julia is coming off a 13-4 season last year,” Coach Russell said. “She finished the year with a 2.65 ERA and had 157 strikeouts. I think she could hit 200 this year. She is looking very good.”
Part of Sullivan’s success is due to veteran catcher Ashley Smith. Also a senior, Smith is back for her third varsity season.
“Ashley is the unsung hero of this team,” the coach explained. “Her leadership behind the plate is second to none. She catches just about every inning of every game. She controls the tempo and she is very smooth back there.”
Smith is tough to run on. She gunned down most runners trying to steal last spring.
“I’d say she probably had the most pickoffs of any catcher in the ACL last year,” the coach said. “She has a cannon for an arm.”
Smith hit .446 last year and had seven stolen bases.
Senior Michelle Morrisey will get the start at first base, but will also see some time in the pitching circle.
“Michelle and Julia will switch off,” the coach noted. “When one is pitching the other will play first. Michelle was 6-1 last year from the right side with a 1.14 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. She also hit .405 with five home runs. She led the team in triples with four and was second on the team with 27 RBI.”
Junior Kerry Kelley returns to the second base bag for the Knights.
“Kerry is not afraid to layout for the ball,” Coach Russell said. “She is gritty, has a strong arm and good range. And she is looking even strong already this year.”
The crack of junior shortstop Julianna Ferguson’s bat was heard around the league last year. Opposing outfielders played her deep and she still hit 11 home runs, finishing in the top three in the state in that category. She hit for a .467 average and led the team with 33 RBI.
“I can’t say enough about Julianna’s bat,” the coach said. “At shortstop she has great range, is incredibly intense and her throw to first is a laser beam.”
Senior Stephanie Smith can play just about any position on the field, however, she’ll start the season for the Knights at the hot corner.
“Steph is a versatile player and she played some third base last year,” Russell said. “She was the goalie in field hockey so having a ball smashed at her is nothing new. She is very aggressive and has an accurate throw. She’s smart, she knows when to creep in and when to backup. I’m looking for her to hold down that corner.”
Smith is also expected to be the leadoff hitter for the Knights.
“Steph has great speed on the bases,” the coach noted. “She can bunt and hit away. She can make things happen.”
Senior Kimmie Whicher returns to left field this spring.
“Kimmie can track the ball like no one else,” the coach pointed out. “She knows the angles and will get to the ball. She has worked in the offseason and her hitting has improved and she has a good arm. She’s looking good this year.”
Junior Kasey Noonan will get the call in center field this spring. The versatile Noonan hit .350 last year and was second on the team with nine stolen bases.
“Kasey can do anything,” Russell said. “She has very good range and tracks the ball well. She is strong and has a very good arm.”
The lone player to graduate from the team last year, Kayla Souza, played right field. This spring Chelsea Sutton looks to get the start in right, where her speed and strong arm should be a plus for the Knights.
“Chelsea is another very versatile player,” Coach Russell explained. “She should see a lot of action in right with Julia being a left-handed pitcher. We’re banking on her arm. I think Chelsea should have a big year.”
Senior Stephanie Andrews is back for another season with the team.
“She can play anywhere,” the coach said of Andrews. “She is very talented. Last year she played mostly outfield and she hit .302. Stephanie is aggressive and isn’t afraid to dive for and block the ball.”
Junior Maddie Burrell saw some varsity action late in the season last year. She is a versatile player, who, among other things, will fill the roll of the third pitcher on the staff.
“Maddie is our third pitcher,” the coach said. “She has great velocity and can really bring it. She can also play third base and the outfield. She is strong and has a powerful bat.”
Junior Maeze Dalte joins the varsity this spring.
“Maeza is a catcher,” Coach Russell pointed out, “and she will benefit greatly from the tutelage of Ashley Smith. She can hit the ball very well and has an accurate throw.”
Four swing players will spend the season between the varsity and junior varsity squads.
Sophomore Shannon Mosher is a shortstop and pitcher, sophomore Kelly Fitzgerald is a left-handed catcher, junior Savannah Reynolds plays the outfield and freshman Helen Colwell also is a catcher.
“We are a veteran team and we’re loaded with talent,” Coach Russell added. “It should be a very strong team and a very good season. The league will be tough, it always is. Marshfield has some better pitching this year. There won’t be any easy games. Hopefully, our tough schedule will prepare us for a tournament run. One thing we definitely want to do is repeat as ACL champs.”
Sandwich opens the spring softball season on Thursday, when they will host Middleborough in a nonleague contest at 4 PM.